June Staff Picks: Cobra Kai, True Crime, and Math Rock!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
I am late to the Cobra Kai train but the Netflix show offers plenty of throwbacks for the Karate Kid film franchise fans. In a half-hour bingeable episode, Cobra Kai doesn’t lean on its retro relatability but offers a show about adults putting to bed the haunting relationships of their past and finding the peaceful balance they need to be present for the people who need them in their everyday lives.
I recently watched the 2019 Australian show Upright, and I highly recommend it. It has some of the most well-developed and well-acted characters I’ve ever had the fortune to watch. All the actors are great, but Milly Alcock, in particular, delivers an astonishing performance, and I can’t wait to see what she does next in her career. You’ll be crying and laughing as you ride along with Meg and Lucky, two complex individuals with past traumas who quite literally crash into each other’s lives and manage to develop a beautiful friendship as they travel 4,000 miles across Australia with an upright piano.
I’ve been loving re-watching Criminal Minds on Netflix and Hulu. Criminal Minds has been a love of mine for years—I’m a lover of true crime, crime dramas, unsettling stories about serial killers, you name it—but I felt the urge to return to it and watch it all start to finish. I know it’s weird to say my comfort TV features gruesome murders and watching the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit break down doors and psychoanalyze every little clue, but I have a special place in my heart for all the characters and the dramatic flair of each investigation. That and they almost always get the bad guy, and in this upside-down world we’ve been living in, it’s nice to have a guaranteed happy ending, even if it is a tad predictable.
Though my taste might be questioned, I have to admit I had been looking forward to the release of John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise on Peacock for a while. And upon its release, I quickly flew through the six-episode docuseries. Despite being one of the most prolific modern serial killers, Gacy hasn’t received much commercial content compared to his counterparts in recent years (i.e., The Night Stalker, The Golden State Killer, and Ted Bundy). This docuseries felt interesting and eye-opening to watch in part because of the lack of content on Gacy and his crimes. In particular, I appreciated the filmmakers decision to highlight and explore the mistakes of the police and legal systems in the 70s, as told through the perspective of the victims’ family, which turned a blind eye to the behavior displayed by Gacy in the years leading up to his active killing period. That choice offered up a more complex and complete retelling that I felt offered the full story without capitalizing on the pain Gacy generated. Maybe not your typical summer recommendation, but it’s one I’ve been telling people about regardless.
Once every other year I find myself revisiting the math rock bands I fell in love with in the late 2000s. Wikipedia defines math rock as, “characterized by complex, atypical rhythmic structures (including irregular stopping and starting), counterpoint, odd time signatures, angular melodies, and extended, often dissonant, chords.” The last two weeks have been a fun rehash. There are the deranged groups like Daughters, whose early work, Hell Songs, is criminally underrated. It’s an overwhelming, ugly, and bleak album from Hell. The guitarist once aptly described Daughters as his “bad guy band.” I counterbalanced the darkness with colorful and upbeat groups like Deerhoof and my personal favorite math rock band, Tera Melos. Deerhoof’s Friend Opportunity is the point where the band started veering more into pop, which makes it a great entry point into their discography. My favorite Tera Melos release is actually a two EP compilation, Drugs/Complex. It marks an era in the band’s career when vocals were only sporadic—guitarist Nick Reinhart began incorporating lead vocals upon the release of their excellent second album, Patagonian Rats.
In talking about math rock I’m obligated to bring up Hella, the Bay Area group that gave us Zach Hill of Death Grips fame. Their dizzying debut album, Hold Your Horse Is, is a bonafide genre classic. But it can be a slog of nonstop guitar and drums drilling into your head. I much prefer the more creative Zach Hill/Nick Reinhart collab, Bygones. Last but not least, I must shout out Maps & Atlases who may be the only math rock group that has soul. Their EPs, Tree, Swallows, Houses and You and Me and the Mountain somehow thread the needle of technical virtuosity and pop sensibility. These songs are sweet and somehow wholesome; dense, yet bordering on twee.